Sapphire Radeon RX 590 Nitro+ review: The new 1080p gaming champion

Heavy metal, refined

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Our test system

We packed our dedicated graphics card test system with some of the fastest complementary components available to put any potential performance bottlenecks squarely on the GPU. Most of the hardware was provided by the manufacturers, but we purchased the cooler and storage ourselves.

  • Intel Core i7-8700K processor ($360 on Amazon)
  • EVGA CLC 240 closed-loop liquid cooler ($120 on Amazon)
  • Asus Maximus X Hero motherboard ($260 on Amazon)
  • 64GB HyperX Predator RGB DDR4/2933 ($416 for 32GB on Amazon)
  • EVGA 1200W SuperNova P2 power supply ($180 on Amazon)
  • Corsair Crystal 570X RGB case, with front and top panels removed and an extra rear fan installed for improved airflow ($170 on Amazon)
  • 2x 500GB Samsung 860 EVO SSDs ($100 on Amazon)

We’re comparing the $280 Sapphire Radeon RX 590 Nitro+ against the $280 XFX Radeon RX 590 Fatboy, of course. We’re also pitting it against the Asus Strix RX 580 Gaming Top OC, which cost $300 when it launched, as well as EVGA’s 6GB GeForce GTX 1060 SSC ($280 at Best Buy)—two other customized, overclocked graphics cards. To show how these $200 to $300 cards compare against step-up options, we also tested the $400 reference Radeon RX Vega 56 and $380 GeForce GTX 1070 Founders Edition.

Each game is tested using its in-game benchmark at the highest possible graphics presets, with VSync, frame rate caps, and all GPU vendor-specific technologies—like AMD TressFX, Nvidia GameWorks options, and FreeSync/G-Sync—disabled, and temporal anti-aliasing (TAA) enabled to push these high-end cards to their limits. If anything differs from that, we’ll mention it. We focused our testing on 1440p and 1080p, as those are the natural resolutions for these graphics cards.

Sapphire Radeon RX 590 Nitro+ benchmarks

Strange Brigade

Let’s kick things off with Strange Brigade ($50 on Humble), a cooperative third-person shooter where a team of adventurers blasts through hordes of mythological enemies. It’s a technological showcase, built around the next-gen Vulkan and DirectX 12 technologies and infused with features like HDR support and the ability to toggle asynchronous compute on and off. It uses Rebellion’s custom Azure engine. We test with async compute off.

strange bridage Brad Chacos/IDG

Sapphire’s Radeon RX 590 is equal to or just the barest of a smidge faster than XFX’s, despite the latter’s 20MHz clock speed advantage. The pattern repeated throughout our testing. Because we extensively compared the RX 590 against rival GPUs like the RX 580 and GTX 1060 in our XFX Fatboy review, we’ll let the benchmarks speak for themselves for the rest of the games testing.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Shadow of the Tomb Raider ($60 on Humble) concludes the reboot trilogy, and it’s utterly gorgeous—even the state-of-the-art GeForce RTX 2080 Ti barely manages to average 60 fps with all the bells and whistles turned on at 4K resolution. Square Enix optimized this game for DX12, and recommends DX11 only if you’re using older hardware or Windows 7, so we test with that. Shadow of the Tomb Raider uses an enhanced version of the Foundation engine that also powered Rise of the Tomb Raider.

shadow of the tomb raider Brad Chacos/IDG

Far Cry 5

Finally, a DirectX 11 game! Far Cry 5 ($60 on Humble) is powered by Ubisoft’s long-established Dunia engine. It’s just as gorgeous as its predecessors, and even more fun.

fc5 Brad Chacos/IDG

Next page: Gaming benchmarks continue

At a Glance
  • The Sapphire Radeon RX 590 Nitro+ delivers superb 1080p gaming performance with few compromises, though the power draw is massive.

    Pros

    • Superb 1080p and good 1440p gaming performance
    • Effective custom cooler
    • Loaded with extra features
    • Comes with 3 free triple-A games

    Cons

    • Very high power draw
    • Discounted RX 580 GPUs offer better value
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